Advice From the Pros

How to Get Your Start in Fitness Writing

Turn your passion for fitness into a freelance writing career

You love writing, and you love to exercise. So you thought, “Why not combine the two?”

Fitness writers are in fact a lucky bunch. Few things are better than learning more about an interest or hobby—and getting paid for it. And no, you don’t even need a personal training certification or a degree in exercise science to join the club.

But if you’re brand new to the scene, getting your start can seem daunting. Follow these tips and you’ll turn your passion into writing in no time.

Start With What You Know

If you love fitness but you’re wondering where to start, tap into your particular interests and experience. Are you a runner? Did you play sports in high school or college? Narrowing your focus will help when it comes time to brainstorm and research article topics to pitch.

Personally, I did track and cross country in high school, and I still run today. When I was first trying to break into national magazines, I set my sights high and aimed for Runner’s World. As a runner, I had a good idea what topics readers would be interested in. I still write for them today, and my knowledge of the sport helps me come up new ideas to pitch.

Build A List of Go-To Sources

No, you don’t have to be a personal trainer or even a super-fit person to write about fitness. That said, fitness writing can be highly technical and nuanced, depending on the subject and audience. I recently had to translate the science-speak behind muscle growth into layman’s terms. This is where having a network of experts you can readily turn to becomes invaluable. Not only will you need to interview experts when you get assignments from editors, but chances are you’ll need some information upfront when researching topics to pitch.

An excellent way to start building your network is to contact the PR team at a local fitness company that employs experts you may want to tap for knowledge. After all, you both have something in common: you want to see your names in print.

Make Friends with the Competition

Writers have a bad rep for being standoffish. In reality, we’re (mostly) a friendly, helpful bunch. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the fitness writers you see in your favorite magazines to find out how they got their start.

I usually send a brief email letting them know who I am—a fellow fitness writer interested in [fill in the blank]—where I’ve seen their work, and asking if they’re available for a quick, 10- to 15-minute chat. I also offer to send a few questions over email if they prefer. Most people will be more than happy to oblige, provided you respect their time and ask relevant, non-intrusive questions. Just don’t ask them to introduce you to that editor you’ve always wanted to write for.

Think Outside the Fitness Box

When you’re first starting out, it’s tempting to go straight for newsstand heavy-hitters like SHAPE, Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Health with your ideas. But you’d be surprised at all the corners where fitness content hides.

With so many publications and readers going digital, the online world is a great place to start looking for markets to pitch. There are entire websites devoted to fitness—like Daily Burn and Beachbody—and there are general health and wellness websites—like Livestrong—that have robust fitness sections.

Trade publications are another great market to keep on your radar. Unlike consumer magazines, trade magazines are targeted to a specific industry, or even a sub-specialty within an industry. You’ll want to search for publications that serve the fitness industry, with audiences that can include personal trainers, owners of fitness facilities, fitness equipment manufacturers and anyone else the industry might touch. Look through this database to get an idea of the kinds of trade publications there are out there.

Be Ready to Dig Deeper

Thanks to the internet, new content is being published at a faster rate than ever before, and readers have to be picky about what they click or buy. To get your editor’s attention, you have to offer something that will get their reader’s attention. As such, you need to probe deeper into the topics you’re researching to come up with takeaways that readers can really use. This means if you’re researching for an article you’ll pitch on “The Best Ways to Lose Weight—Without Spending Hours on the Treadmill,” you should be prepared to give readers real, actionable advice they can easily incorporate into their own lives.

From crafting copy to pitching and polishing your prose, give your writing a skills a boost with our online writing courses.

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